The White Rose

J. Alan Smith considers issues of legitimate authority and state power

One of the important messages proclaimed by our civilization is that there is a distinction to be made between authority and power. Those who possess the one do not necessarily possess the other; there can be rulers and regimes that lack legitimacy. This article examines the way this truth has been represented in history by the white flower, particularly the white rose, which, like the white lily, is a symbol of Our Lady.

The Wars of the Roses derived their name from the badges of the Houses of Lancaster and York, the two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty whose rival claims to the throne produced the conflict. Edmund Crouchback, second son of Henry III and first Earl of Lancaster, took the Red Rose as his badge from his mother, Eleanor of Provence. John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III, became Duke of Lancaster through marriage to Blanche of Lancaster. Edmund of Langley, fifth son of Edward III and first Duke of York, took the White Rose as his badge.

Symbol of legitimate monarchy

Henry TV, son of John of Gaunt, usurped the throne from his cousin, Richard II, the son of the Black Prince who was the eldest son of Edward III. Following Richards subsequent death the legitimist claim to the throne passed to the nine-year-old Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, who was in no position to exercise it. Edmund was the great-grandson of Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence

third son of Edward TIT. On Edmund's death the claim passed to Richard, the fourteen-year-old Duke of York. Henry VI, the Lancastrian occupant of the throne, was descended from thefourth son of Edward III; Richard, Duke of York was descended in the male line from the f fth son of Edward III but his claim to the throne was based on descent in the female line from the -third son of Edward III. Thus the White Rose became a symbol of legitimate monarchy.

A Jacobite badge

The White Rose reappeared during Stuart times. Government officers wore in their hats a cockade, a form of rosette. Under Charles I the cockade was scarlet, an appropriate colour for a martyr. It is interesting to note in passing how rich the Stuart story is in Christian symbolism: a royal martyr; loyalty to the rightful king, currently absent from power; the belief that all things will be well when the King enjoys his own again'. At the Restoration Charles II adopted a white cockade which James II, in due course, retained. Following his successful invasion William of Orange naturally introduced an orange cockade. In exile, James II and his successors continued to use the white cockade; in particular, it was worn by the Irish Brigades in the armies of the Kings of France, forming the nucleus of a Jacobite force. This led to the adoption of the White Rose as a Jacobite badge. Once again the White Rose became a symbol of legitimate monarchy in contrast to the mere occupation of a throne.

Resistance movement

Among students in Munich during World War II there was a Christian anti-Nazi resistance movement called the White Rose group which was led by brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl. As Christians, they saw Hitler as Antichrist and circulated anti-Nazi letters among their friends. On 16 February 1943, just after Stalingrad, the Gauleiter of Bavaria addressed the students and received a hostile response. Three days later the Scholls produced a leaflet attacking him and distributed it between lectures. Within ten days they and over a hundred friends were dead, most of them after torture. They were witnesses to the truth that possession of power does not necessarily convey legitimate authority. C.M. Woodhouse wrote: `Being German, they show better than anyone else the true purpose of resistance: to save a nation's soul.'

Unborn children

In the last half-century the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has used the white flower to commemorate those unborn children who were killed because they were unwanted. White is doubly appropriate for it is the symbol both of penance and of innocence: the white sheet was worn by penitents; white for innocence is the colour for bridal dresses and the liturgical colour of requiems for young children.

We rightly despise those societies in the past that permitted slavery and the employment of women and young children for unrestricted periods in factories and down mines. How will posterity judge a society that permitted the large-scale slaughter of its unborn members? Out of sight, out of mind' is not a generally accepted principle of ethics.

The white flower is a protest against a State that has undermined its own authority by its own unjust acts. The United Kingdom not only neglects its duty to protect its unborn citizens, it also positively acts in an unjust manner by performing abortion through the NHS and by promoting abortion through propaganda and discrimination in NHS appointments. Aquinas wrote of temporal rulers that if they command things to be done which are unjust, their subjects are not bound to obey them'. Should a crisis come, we must give our allegiance directly to the overlord of every temporal ruler; CHRISTUS REGNAT, OK?


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